2/26

As brides, we have a lot to stress over. Whether it’s the environmental stress of an industry demanding we spend, spend, spend, the intimidating task of pleasing everyone, or the stuff we completely make up (I’m not alone in that, right?), planning a wedding can wreak havoc on your chill. I knew before I got engaged, hell, before I was even sure that I was ever getting married, my wedding dress would cause a mountain of stress.

To start things off, I never qualified for my “Love Your Body” card. I’m a hateful nitpicker in front of the mirror, saying things to myself that no one would ever think of me and I certainly wouldn’t think of anyone else. As I admitted to you last week, I tend to have this strange, backward way of thinking where the more compliments I get, the more afraid I am of not living up to what I perceive as lofty expectations of me. So, needless to say, I was already in a hole the first time I went shopping, and to make things even more difficult, I didn’t really have a budget.

My mom, on the other hand, was reeeeeeally excited. She had hauled me all over the Dallas- Fort Worth Metroplex in high school to find the perfect prom dress (two years in a row!), and she was still getting over her disappointment that my sister only tried two dresses on, so she was ready for some hardcore wedding dress shopping.

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Our first trip was to an outlet mall with racks and racks of every size dress. We weren’t so much shopping as testing the waters. I never had a vision of what my dress would look like. I just didn’t want to look bad, so we pulled several dresses from the racks and I headed back to the dressing room with minimal fanfare.

These were the best of the bunch and you can see I was none too pleased. I didn’t think either of them were worth half of their $899 price tags, which terrified me for the day I actually got my budget set. Looking back at the pictures now, both dresses seem nice, but I obviously didn’t see it then:

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Not exactly a “yes to the dress” expression.

While my overly dramatic look of disgust might suggest that it was an epic waste of time, we actually accomplished the two things we set out to do, both of which were a surprise to me: I learned that a mermaid silhouette complimented my figure best and that true white or a very pale ivory washed out my already-pale skin the least. If you have major questions that likely can’t be answered without trying something on, I highly recommend a trial run at a similar store where you won’t be pummeled with high-pressure sales.

My second trip was still an “I’m just looking” venture, but this time my mother, sister and I went to one of the largest bridal salons in Dallas. At this point, I knew my fiance was willing to spend a lot more on a dress than I originally expected, but I was still pretty iffy on where that budget was coming from. Sensing that I probably wasn’t buying that day, the saleswoman told me to pick out eight dresses and hang them on a hook. It wasn’t exactly customer service, but at least there wasn’t any high pressure.

capbead As feared, the first dress I tried on looked much better on the hanger than it did on me. At a street size 8, I’m right in that sample size area and this one was just a hair too big through the middle while practically bursting at the hip seams. I had been warned, but perhaps didn’t put enough credence into the notion that it’s extremely rare to fit perfectly into a sample size without alterations, but I was already disappointed.

smdress This one fit quite nicely and I really liked the illusion neckline. Although I wasn’t overly excited, this was my mother’s favorite and it took no more than her saying so for me to feel overwhelmed with (perceived) pressure. When I told my mom, “I guess this would be ok if I don’t find something better,” she told me it was time to try something else on. I’m sure what I was sensing was not her irritation, but my assumption that she was upset that I wasn’t equally in love, and I reluctantly headed back to the dressing room. I got in and out of a few dresses without any “wow” moments. I was beginning to think that I was just going to settle for something that “worked” even if it didn’t make me feel beautiful or special or like a “real” bride.

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The strapless dress just seemed lackluster and I was inclined to avoid strapless anyway. I adored the lace and beading on the silvery dress on the right, but it was a discontinued sample and was only available to buy off the rack in a size that I knew wouldn’t fit properly without some extreme dieting. I shimmied out of it and pulled out the last dress – the one I had intentionally saved for last.

ac1 This Allure Couture dress was the most expensive I pulled that day. Coming it at a staggering $2250, it was more than I was willing to commit to, but not impossible if I cut corners elsewhere. Yes, the sample was a bit too snug, but what left me really disappointed was when mom said unemotionally, “It’s…nice.”

“That does that,” I thought.

Mom was ready for me to choose another eight gowns and I was just ready to get out of there. I wasn’t sure if I was hangry because I was hungry or because stuffing my face just sounded like a good idea, but I used it as an excuse and we headed to grab lunch.

Things were tense between my mother and me for the next couple of weeks. I allowed myself to get crippled by fear. I was afraid of disappointing her. I was intimidated by her pages of handwritten notes of designers and dresses and where they were sold in the area and how much they were. I was scared to death of my then-unestablished budget. Things culminated in a particularly nasty fight that tentatively resolved with, “I love you, but I can’t be your Wedding Barbie.” I explained that while we have the same decadent taste, “decadent” wasn’t in my budget. We ended on the kind of understanding you only get from family. She hasn’t pressured me since (even if I invent reasons to feel pressure).

After making peace with my mom, I went home for a visit. That weekend my dad handed me an envelope with $1,500 in it and explained that if he could do anything, he wanted to buy my dress. I knew it was more than he had to give, but it was also something he desperately wanted to do. Sometimes the sacrifices we make for people we love are far outweighed by our joy in doing something to help. This was one of those times. I hugged him and thanked him and knew I had a budget.

I was still feeling the pull from Mom to go shopping again, and despite our successful reconciliation, I was still feeling overwhelmed. I was also more than miffed that the store that was supposed to be THE store in Dallas was … really disappointing in terms of both selection and staff. I had heard good things about Bridal Boutique in Lewisville, about 15 miles south of my house, and on a whim one day, I made an appointment to go … all by myself.

The purpose was twofold. I didn’t want to drag my mother across the world to be annoyed that dresses we had Pinned and researched weren’t actually there, and I wanted to see how I felt about dresses without her opinion.

Full disclosure: I am in no way being compensated for this statement.

Oh my goodness, if you live within whatever distance you’d be willing to travel of Bridal Boutique Lewisville, you want to go to there. My associate Candice was so warm from the get-go that I knew I was going get through this! She asked me questions to know how to best help me and, boy, did she ever help! She even talked me out of trying on a dress that I adored, but knew was outside of my budget. In what seemed like seconds, we had a load of dresses to take back to the dressing room.

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She got me out of my comfort zone, while still embracing my style. One thing she mentioned that will be helpful to anyone shopping is that she was glad I had my hair and makeup done. Even though my hair was just a messy updo, being a little extra made-up will give you more of the over-all bride feeling when you’re checking yourself out. You may want to consider bringing some jewelry, too!

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She even took the pictures for me and gave me a little pose coaching so they were ready to show my family. You can see her in the mirror up there. I knew from my last excursion that I favored the modesty of the illusion neckline, so we had plenty of those to try on.

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She retook that picture several times, but apparently I was so excited, I blinked every time. It was getting a little silly so, it was time to take it and run. I tried on a few more; not all of them were great, but we even got to visit my old friend, this time without rips and tears!

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In the privacy of a Tuesday afternoon, just Candice and me, I found THE one, for $1,250, which was under my (gifted) $1,500 budget. It happened to be the first dress she pulled for me based on what I told her I was looking for. And all that customer service and enthusiasm? It came AFTER I told her I wasn’t going to buy anything until my parents were there! Before I had even made an appointment to bring the folks in, I got a sweet, hand-written letter in the mail from Candice telling me how wonderful it was to work with me!

I was so nervous to tell my mom that I’d actually found my dress without her, but once I showed her pictures, she couldn’t argue. I learned that sometimes, whether other people are making you feel overwhelmed or you’re overwhelmed because you’re stressing out about other people, taking some alone time, even for something you’re putting a lot of emphasis on, is a really empowering, yet calming way to go. I made my appointment to try the dress on again for Mom and Dad and when I did, I caught Dad tearing up. Success!

So which dress made my daddy cry? It’s not here. It’s too obvious! You’ll have to wait another seven months (Y’all. I’m getting married in seven months!), but I’ll tell you all about my shoes next time!



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  • RJ

    This is such a real experience! Thank you for sharing. I quickly learned how frustrating dress shopping can be and it’s nice to hear someone share what it’s actually like for many people. Glad you found a dress you love!